"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep." John 10:11-14
In college I took a Christian Ministries class where I had to essentially preach a sermon. The assignment was to preach to yourself (in front of the class) for almost the full class hour. I chose to preach to myself about God's faithfulness, because I was taking a risk and choosing to leave campus and study abroad.
I was preaching to myself about how I believed God called me to go abroad, so God would be good and faithful in my time abroad.
I stood shaky up in front of my class after finishing this huge project, knowing it would have an enormous impact on my grade, waiting for questions during my Q & A period. I sighed a bit of relief when I noticed no one raising their hand, ready to go back to my seat and shuffle off to my next class.
But then my professor's hand popped up.
"So Molly, what if you don't like your roommate abroad, what if you don't like the classes, or the program, and maybe you don't even like the country? Then what does your message say about that?"
I had used an image in my presentation about God's covenant in an Old Testament passage, so I remember gesturing up to the screen and saying something like, "Well God would still be good and because of the covenant nature of His love."
And then I shuffled back to my seat and to my next class.
When I did study abroad, I had a terrible roommate situation. I missed my friends on campus and the gloriously easy relationships I had left behind in my dorm room in Indiana. I was lonely. I hated being long distance with my boyfriend at the time. My classes were often boring, and sometimes seemed pointless. My job was far from fulfilling, and as I scrubbed dishes alone in the kitchen corner in Ireland I continuously questioned why I left my college campus for this, and I was really asking, is God good?
At some point in your life, I'm sure you've asked the same question.
When we are faced with small struggles and little inconveniences, or when we are faced with massive hurt and brokenness, we often turn to God, throw up our hands and point at our problems like this is not what you promised.
So what did God promise? We get a glimpse at it here, as Jesus introduced Himself with another shepherding analogy saying, "I am the good shepherd." He contrasts Himself to the hired hand.
The hired hand runs when trouble comes and says, I'm out of here these sheep don't matter to me that much. But not the good shepherd. The good shepherd is there to stay, He's constant. And He is invested in the well being of His sheep.
Jesus is invested in your life. In the small details, in the little struggles, in the massive disappointments. And it's not about selfish gain like it is for the hired hand, it's just because He is good. He is someone you can count on to always be invested in your well being.
When I look back on my tough semester abroad, in retrospect there is so much I would tell my younger self. One thing comes from this passage. I would tell her, you are taken care of by a good shepherd. He knows you, and you should focus on what you know about Him.
During that challenging season, I wish I would have focused less on what I felt was like a wolf coming, and more on the good shepherd who had it handled and promised to redeem everything.
Often, my heart's cry is to know God. I want to hang out with God like a friend, and sit with Him on the couch every morning with a cup of coffee. Jesus invites us into this mutual knowing. He knows us fully and completely, just as He knows the Father, and He invites us to get to know Him.
He is the good shepherd. He is motivated by love, modeling His relationship to us after His relationship to the Father, and His promise is to be present. He is always invested in our care and well being, and His offer to care for us is never ending. It starts with our good shepherd sacrificing for us, and it continues in ever increasing knowledge of His goodness.
-What differences do you notice between the good shepherd and the hired hand?
-How does your relationship with Jesus reflect God's relationship with Jesus?
-What does it mean to you to "know" Jesus? How can you get to know Him?
Take the answer to the last journaling prompt and put it into action this week. How can you focus on getting to know Jesus more this week?
Jesus, thank you for being the good shepherd. Thank you for caring for me and for being invested in my well being, sticking with me through every hardship and difficulty. Thank you for knowing me fully and completely. Help me to continue to get to know you and your goodness. Amen.